Let this month be a springboard toward more healthful eating.

Every March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics works with nutrition professionals to focus attention on making informed choices. How do you answer these questions?

Yes or No: Do you include a variety of healthful foods from all of the food groups on a regular basis?

Yes or No: Do you select more healthful options when eating away from home?

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Yes or No: Are you mindful of portion sizes?

Yes or No: Do you help reduce food waste by considering the foods you have on hand before buying more at the store?

Yes or No: Do you make food safety part of your everyday routine?

Yes or No: Do you do physical activities that you enjoy?

Yes or No: Are you physically active most days of the week?

Consider these tips:

Explore new foods and flavors

When shopping, select a fruit, vegetable or whole grain that’s new to you or your family. Try different versions of familiar foods such as blue potatoes, red leaf lettuce or basmati rice.

Get the most nutrition out of your calories

Choose the most nutritionally rich foods you can from each food group each day – those packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients but lower in calories. Use added salt, sugars and fats sparingly.

Get cooking

Cooking at home can be healthful, rewarding and cost effective. Try new recipes and incorporate the best of them into your favorite meals.

Enact family mealtime

Research shows that family meals promote more healthful eating. If you have children or grandchildren, involve them in meal planning and cooking, and use this time to talk about healthful foods.

Visit www.ag.ndsu.edu/food for numerous recipes and healthful eating tips.

Question: What’s the difference between added sugars and natural sugars?

Added sugars are not found naturally in foods. Food processors add these sweeteners for various reasons, including flavor. We add these sweeteners in our homes. Added sugars include brown sugar or white sugar, which provide calories from carbohydrates. They do not provide vitamins or minerals and other nutrition.

Other foods have natural sugars. For example, dairy products contain the natural sugar lactose. Dairy products provide protein, vitamin D and calcium. Fruits and vegetables provide some natural sugars as well, but they also provide fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

In coming months, you will see Nutrition Facts labels with “added sugars” listed.

Article used with permission from Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist, NDSU Extension, Nourish newsletter, Issue 14. For more information, contact the Stutsman County Extension office at 252-9030 or email luella.morehouse@ndsu.edu.